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International forum to focus on social and economic impact of salinity

RIVERSIDE, Calif. Salinity is a measure of the concentration of dissolved salts in water. Salt-affected lands have an adverse impact on crop production, while salts released from animal wastes degrade surface- and ground-water resources.

Salinity, therefore, has far-reaching economic and social impacts. Questions salinity experts often grapple with are: How much salt can crop and pasture species tolerate? How can treated sewage water be reused? And what needs to be done to develop plants with improved salt tolerance?

These and similar questions will be discussed at the 3rd International Salinity Forum being co-organized by the Water Science and Policy Center (WSPC) at the University of California, Riverside and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Salinity Laboratory.

The forum will take place June 16-18, 2014, at the Riverside Convention Center, 3443 Orange Street, Riverside. Participants from more than 30 countries will attend.

A full program can be found here. Registration, which costs $600 per person, can be made here. The registration fee is waived for reporters interested in covering the forum or portions of it. Interested reporters must coordinate their free registration before June 16, 2014, with Carol O'Brien.

The international salinity forum series was initiated with the first forum in 2005, coordinated by the UC Water Resources Center, the Salinity Laboratory, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

The 3rd International Salinity Forum takes place five years after the previous international salinity forum, which took place in Australia.

"Since the second forum in 2008, there have been many major advances in research, practice and policy on salinity management," said Ariel Dinar, the director of the WSPC. "These will be discussed at length in the 3rd International Salinity Forum."

The international salinity forum series was developed to provide a structure for interdisciplinary scientific interaction on various aspects of salinity, including plant, soil, and water and agriculture, socio-economic and management aspects.

"This is the only forum of this nature," said Donald Suarez, the director of the Salinity Lab.

The forum will address issues critical to salinity management and maintaining or enhancing food production. It will bring together a variety of scientific disciplines such as soil chemistry, soil physics, plant sciences, irrigation science, agronomy, modeling and economics.

With the growth of the human population have come increased demands on fresh water supplies. In arid regions, these demands severely threaten sustainability of irrigation and crop production.

"Current climate change predictions indicate that many arid regions presently irrigated will face increasing temperatures and decreasing rainfall, further aggravating the water scarcity in these regions," said Dinar, who has co-edited a handbook on climate change and agriculture. "The need to increase food production in arid regions can only be achieved by increased productivity of irrigated lands and/or increased acreage under irrigation."

According to Dinar, alternative water supplies as well as more efficient use of existing water supplies are essential to avoid a food crisis in regions, such as the Middle East and North Africa, and to sustain food production and local economies in the southwestern United States and elsewhere.

"Use of alternative water supplies are not without potential consequences such as deterioration or physical and chemical soil properties, and other environmental consequences such as salinization of groundwater and other ecosystems," said Suarez.

The keynote speech at the 3rd International Salinity Forum will be given by Daniel Hillel, the 2012 World Food Prize laureate, at 9 a.m. on Monday, June 16. A world-renowned environmental scientist and hydrologist, Hillel has confronted several environmental concerns worldwide with innovation, action and creativity. He has worked in more than 30 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Australia. His major focus has been the Middle East, where he served as a consultant to the governments of Israel, Pakistan, the Sudan, Iran, Egypt, Jordan, Cyprus, and elsewhere. He has served, too, as an advisor to the World Bank and the United Nations.

"We hope the forum will result in increased interdisciplinary research and international cooperation on management of saline soils and water for agricultural production," Suarez said.

Besides the WSPC and the USDA Salinity Lab, a number of organizations have sponsored the forum. A full list of sponsors can be found here.


Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
University of California - Riverside

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